The Germglish problem - English Rose Berlin - translation and copywriting


There is a disease that seems to slowly infect native speakers of English after settling in Germany. This disease is not always evident to every onlooker, especially since the Germans the infected surround themselves with are immune to the disease itself, just not its symptoms. Infection with this disease is, however, very obvious to any healthy, uninfected native speaker of English who happens to to observe the infected party’s most unusual behaviour.

This is not some kind of sexually transmitted disease.


Nor is it a painful addiction to substandard comedy and entertainment shows like “Schlag den Raab” or “Goodbye Deutschland”. No. I’m talking about something much more serious, much more widespread, and much more damaging to the sufferer and all who come into close contact with them.

I’m talking about Germglish.

That’s right: this silent killer of dreams is known as Germglish.



Germglish is an affliction that starts slowly. Unusual word selection is usually the first symptom. Uncomfortable syntax, might be seen next. German-oriented language is also already fundamental within the framework of this illness, as are those additional words. By this stage, the hyphenation-problem is usually getting much more serious. These people may still have very-useful informations to share, but by this stage it is hard to follow the thread already, because their mother language word order is so destroyed by German-oriented-grammar by now.


Germglish sufferers are commonly said to have “gone native”. This is to say, they have spent so much time immersed in the German language, culture, and society, that they have forgotten their origins and any associated skills. These people have gone so much further than learning to mark the days you can go shopping on a Sunday on a dedicated calendar. They have gone so much further than knowing to not even bother queuing for the bus.

Such people no longer know the difference between Currywurst mit Klöße and bangers and mash! Their English has turned into some strange modern English-German mix that you would normally expect to resemble Flemish. But it doesn’t. Not even Flanders’s finest forensic linguists can make sense of the foreign-sounding mess produced by the dreaded Germglish sufferers.

Why am I so concerned about Germglish?

And why am I so disdainful of its sufferers?

I’ll tell you why. Germglish is a disease not every sufferer knows they have. Everyone knows how to prevent getting it, but they can’t be bothered to use protection and figure they’ll just keep going until they hit a problem. I consider this behaviour rather irresponsible – it’s your choice if you don’t want to use protection and get infected with Germglish. But it isn’t fair to spread your disease.

Infected expats often work in high-contact environments. Think educators, translators, even copywriters. Through their work, their infection spreads and mutates. It morphs as it infects young German children, dooming them to never learn proper English (and never learn better, either, because their teacher is “native”). It morphs as it infects websites, now translated into unappealing Germglish no uninfected English speaker wants to read or buy from. It morphs into advertising slogans that confuse more than they compel!

Germglish is a leech on the German economy – a silent infection spread by vampiric Germglish-infected bats in the night, feasting on the blood and ambition of innocent German businesses as they attempt to stretch their virgin wings into new markets… Oh, the innocence lost. The blood spilled. The ambitions broken. It breaks my heart.

What can be done?

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  1. Karin August 27, 2014 at 9:39 am

    What can be done, indeed, that’s the question.Please, don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to start a “foreigners-out-campaign”, far from that. But maybe the sufferers of this terrible disease should be sent home on a regular basis so they might breathe and live in their native culture and come back refreshed and face no longer problems with hyphens, as I as a German native do. Besides I see a big problem for my fellow translators who reading and hearing Germanglish that sounds so familiar might get the idea to translate into English. We mustn’t allow this! We cannot do this to the language of Shakespeare and Mick Jagger!

  2. Grayson Morris October 22, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Karin, that’s an excellent suggestion. I think we all need to return to our home countries on a regular basis. Reading my native language on the Web and chatting with other Americans online is great, but nothing beats 24/7 immersion for filling the nooks and crannies of your brain. (Which is no doubt why, the first few times I visited the Netherlands with my husband after I had just learned the language, my head felt like it was going to explode before we’d even reached dinnertime.)

  3. Susannah June 11, 2015 at 7:04 am

    Great article!
    I am genuinely worried about this happening to me, although I try my best to prevent it!!

  4. Ernest A Brown March 22, 2017 at 2:23 am

    Asking questions are in fact pleasant thing if you are
    not understanding anything totally, but this article gives fastidious understanding yet.

    • Rose Newell May 10, 2017 at 10:09 pm

      I actually have no idea if this was spam or a genuine comment written in Germglish. 😀 Either way, it’s funny, so thank you!

Comments are closed.